I’m more of a people person than an animal person. In fact, I struggle with being a pet owner because a) there’s a lot of responsibility to owning pets and b) pets eventually die, and I hate death and grief.  However, being a mom to boys means we have pets, and since moving into our own house back in 2004, we’ve been owners of a hamster named Mango, a gecko named Lima Bean, and a one-eyed English bulldog named Abi. Of the three, Mango is the only one no longer with us, although there was a week back in December 2006 when I thought Lima Bean was a goner for sure.

Gecko Love
originally posted to the JaneBlog on January 3, 2007

Yes, I was the one that bought the Gecko for my son Ty a number of months ago because he 1) begged and pleaded, and 2) he used his own money. Except for the constant shopping for crickets, taking care of a Gecko has been relatively easy. The waxworms do splendidly in the fridge, even if it is creepy digging the little worms out of their sawdust nest with a tiny spoon. But no matter. We have Gecko, and he must eat, and no Gecko can live on live crickets alone.

I’ve even developed a soft spot for the Gecko (his name since no one gave him a name, although a few were thrown around the first day, names that failed to stick, names that included Lima-for Lima Bean, Lizard, and Geico) and he comes out to see me when he hears my voice as I represent food and water, as well as sunlight and warmth. My son Ty cherished Gecko just long enough for me to feel responsible for its little leopard self, thus, the crisis during the power outage.

Gecko needs heat and warmth. Gecko needs his heated tray and his sun lamp and his desert like conditions, even in the midst of our Seattle winter. When we lost power house stayed warm enough at first that Gecko was merely cold, and considering hibernating. But when the outside temp dropped to the 20’s and the house read mid thirties, Gecko was chilly. Very, very chilly. So chilly lizards books said Gecko would um, hibernate forever. Go to the great Lizard in the sky. And so on.

I couldn’t have it. No lizard will perish on my watch. And so one night I stayed up til midnight replacing votive candles around the front of Gecko’s glass cage and then wrapping the back and sides in a quilt. That actually got the heat up to 55 degrees but that wasn’t enough. And then I hit upon an absolutely brilliant plan and someday I will write a book about this, thinking title would be Saving Private Gecko, (doesn’t that just give you goosebumps?!>).

But to save Private Gecko, I had to be brave and focused and strong. And I was. I was. I wouldn’t let my little green buddy down.

In my bathroom I discovered some instant heat strips that I use on my back when it gives me trouble. You just take the strips out of the foil pouches and stick them on your skin and you’ve got heat for 8 hours. Within ten minutes Gecko’s glass house had 4 heating strips on the sides. The temperature went up. A little.

Gecko kept staring at me from beneath his log, his small sad smile telling me it was okay, he understood. I’d done my best. I had to save myself now. I had to go to bed and get warm.

I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t leave him. True, I was shivering. Upstairs felt like a ice chamber but women–real women–don’t leave reptilean pets behind. Gecko needed more warmth. Gecko needed…candles? Candle votive in cage? Hmm, fried Gecko very unappealing, might scar children further. No, can’t put open flame next to lizard. Bad.

BUT. Something warm in cage, something warm for Gecko to lay on since his sand covered heated tray was now icy cold.

Then it hit me. A bolt of…thought.

Hand warmers.

The kind the kids use when they ski.

With candle in hand I headed to garage, raided the ski duffle bag (no need to tell you I was freezing like mad, because this story isn’t about me, it’s about my little buddy) and found one packet, one cellophane wrapped hand warmer from last year’s trip to Banff.



Picture Mary-Catherine Gallagher from Saturday Night Live doing her Superstar move. Superstar.

I felt like a Superstar as I opened the plastic and foil wrapped warmer, then squished it into warmth and placed it in the most natural looking bright orange sand covering Gecko’s tray.

Gecko crept out from his log and touched the new little warm bed with a frozen foot, looked at me, tears in his eyes.

It’s okay, little buddy. It’s okay. It’s yours and it’s warm and no one is going to take it away from you.

Gecko slowly climbed on the warmer and lay with his stomach on the bump and he finally slept.

The next morning he was still there, ALIVE. And yes, he was still curled on the warmer, although it wasn’t quite as warm but it’d done it’s job. Thank you warmer. Thank you, Jane’s good idea.

Not to pat myself too much on the back but for one night I was brilliance personified. I knew what it meant to be a team player. And when I’m someday running with the Big Lizard in the sky, they will talk about me in hushed tones in Geckoland, (located about 6 miles from Legoland, I believe) and they will say, ‘No lizard died on her watch.’

No ma’am. No lizard will die on my watch.

I’m a good woman.

Even if I terrify men.

We’ve had our gecko several years now and I’ve grown fond of him but every time Surfer Ty promises to buy another gecko for my boys I nearly flip my lid.  No more geckos, no more rodents, no birds, cats, fish, no more dogs.  We have a new baby.  Isn’t that enough?

How about you?  Is there a kind of animal you just won’t have in your house?  (I draw the line at snakes.  I don’t do snakes, wont do snakes, ever.)  Tell me where you draw the line.  What could you handle, and what would push you over the edge?


  1. I loved that.

    I hope the boys appreciate the lengths their Mom went to all in the name of saving their beloved Gecko!

    My kids have been bugging me for a pet, but I keep telling them they have to be old enough to care for its needs…I don’t have enough “Superstar” in me to sustain Gecko life through the long cold Canadian winters!

  2. Snakes and ANY creature with 8 legs. Anything that slithers, or runs faster than I do, is not welcome.

    We have a chinchilla, and it IS an expensive, and needy, little addition.

    Now, the kids want a rottweiler, to name, Uncle Vinny.

    I promised so long ago, NO MORE PETS….yet, I know, very soon, we will have a new puppy, with new needs, new expenses, and 2 kids that will be ALL over him, for about a week…

  3. No snakes or spiders. Nothing poisonous. We have had lizards and fish. Dogs, birds, a cat. Now we just have our Chloe, dog, and that is enough. LOL. She is our baby. Shh…don’t tell anyone but I think of her as much mine as my daughter’s. 🙂

  4. I love this story. Well, I guess when you were trying to warm up your gecko, I was boiling water and adding into the tank, the poor fishes were so cold they didn’t move anymore. In those days of power outtage we use the camping gear a lot. The propane stove is my best friend, I cook, I boil water for our warm rubber bottles we use in beds, we use the hand warmers and the heat pads for back, I even pull out the sleeping bags if necessary.

    Alex wants a kitten or 2 and we volunteer to foster a mama cat with babies so we can see them when they get born, how they grow and get used to us from the begining. I’m having 2nd thoughts few times a day. I’m thinking adopting a kitten might be a better idea. Kitten season is late this year because of low temperatures, we are still waiting for the phone call to go pick up our mama cat. God help us!

  5. I am with you on the snakes, I hate them. My son had one playing with it last year in the yard and I was about to have a cow! No snakes. The only pets we have are fish. A large tank in the living room and a large Koi pond in the back yard. That’s all the pets we need.

  6. After we lost Georgie-our guinea pig-I have put my foot down to any “caged” animals. I prefer animals who can go outside to do their “business”, thank you very much!!!

  7. What a great story. We have a leopard gecko too. His name is Bawwss- like boss only cooler, so I’ve been told. LOL! Thank goodness we have a wood stove because when we’re without power, our little reptillian critter and our fish- along with ourselves- stay plenty warm.

    I’m in total agreement with the ‘no snakes or spiders’ comments above. Great answers there. I also won’t have a pitbull because they are so very unpredictible and I already have a hard enough time trusting dogs.

  8. I loved your story! I shared it with my husband as we too, had a gecko. We went through a phase where we had a bunch of pets, none with hair though (allergies rein supreme in our home). Fish, geckos, hermit crabs and turtles. Sadly, all have perished. We had a goldfish that lasted five years, I know, amazing!

    I am always willing to try a pet without hair because I feel the kids are deprived of having a “real” pet because of the kids’ allergies. I put my foot down though on a rat. EESH! Blech. I couldn’t handle a white rat named, Blizzard. I had to say no and be the big meanie but the thought of having to find a rat loose in my house. I shudder.

    BTW, your superstar move cracked me up. My coworker and I do “superstar” lunges when we work out. Mary Catherine Gallagher is our hero! Thanks for the laughs!

  9. I’m with you absolutely NO snakes. I am horribly afraid. My brother used to chase me with them when I was a kid. I can handle spiders but NO NO snakes.

  10. I don’t do snakes!!!!! Ever, never, never, ever will there be a snake anywhere near me. Phobic!! I can’t look at them on TV, books, ICK!

    I also don’t want to take care of a dog. Not a big dog fan. I like other people’s dog’s but I don’t want to take care of one. We have 2 cats, they are enough to deal with.

  11. WELL….You know I have four boys and they require a lot of pets: hermit crabs, hamster, fish, three dogs, guniea pig and frog. It is I who feeds, changes cages, walks etc.
    I am an animal lover and when I grow up…I would love to have a no kill shelter for animals.
    The pig and hamster know my voice because they too associate it with food and comfort-just like my boys! I am a care giver of many, a place I didn’t dream of before I had children. I love it.
    I would have to say rats is one rodent/animal that the pet stores sale that I wouldn’t own. After our creatures here now go beyond the living, I will not have anything other than a dog.

  12. I don’t have any pets, and don’t plan to. I have 2 kids and a husband…isn’t that enough? I do watch my neighbors tiny little dog on occasion. He is really cute and completely trained so he is not a problem to take for a few days. But that’s enough for me. At the end of the few days, I am happy for little Jake to go home to his real family!!

  13. I have a son who had 2 rodents AKA rats. They are nocturnal creatures and wake him up when he was sleeping.

    My husband had a bearded dragon lizard who to my surprise, I liked to feed. NOT HOLD.

    I have 3 dogs and 2 indoor cats…at this moment in my life this is enough.


  14. I have dogs and cats and I love their company. We have had fish with varying degrees of success, but it is disheartening to find them dead outside the tank, having jumped out — WHAT are they thinking when they take the leap? We have also had gerbils, which are cute and interesting, but stressful because of the cats… they were named Lunch, Dessert and Snack we did have an unfortunate incident with Lunch and a cat.

    Two of my daughters ride competitively, so we have two horses, but not at home, at the coach’s barn.

    I could never have something I have to feed live things to… no piranhas, no lizards and definitely no snakes… my son was offered a boa but they eat mice. The kid offering the boa told me I could get frozen mice, but I had visions of holding mice pops by the frozen stiff tail and passed on the offer. I like snakes, though, their movement fascinates me.

  15. Rodents… I’m not a big fan of rodents and I absolutely refuse to have rats in my house. We have 2 dogs and a beta fish that has lasted a lot longer then it should have. I bought the beta when my daughter was around 1.5-2 years old as a way to combat the “I want another baby” blues. It worked, but the fish is still here and my daughter has now developed an attachment.

  16. When I was a kid I had a pet white rat named Ding-Dong. She got a tumor on her neck and had to have it removed-they sewed her up with stainless steel stitches. I will never forget the image of my dad feeding her chicken broth with an eyedropper, doing his best to help nurse her back to health. She did recover, got her stitches out, and was a happy little rat for the rest of her days. Thanks, dad.
    Good on ya, Jane.

  17. Great post!

    I won’t do snakes or spiders! I found a baby snake in our garage last summer and I was attempting to kill it till a friendly neighbor came along and took him into a wooded area of our community. I was looking out for the snake for several days!

    Have a SUPER day!

  18. Hi Jane,

    Well I have had my share of pets also, dogs, cats, ferrets, lizards, fish, hermet crabs, rabbits and hampsters. I draw the line at spiders, I am deathly afraid of spiders. I currently have 2 dogs and 2 cats which is quite enough for right now though I wouldn’t mind getting a horse and donkey soon, but they would definetly have to stay outside.


  19. No snakes or spiders. But I love my wild lizards in the yard. We cathch and save the babies all the time, so my dog won’t “play” with them.

  20. This was a cute story! I am a huge animal lover and a big pet person with my crazy cat lady tendencies (4 cats plus a Pug. Yes, death & grieving does suck–I went through that 3 weeks ago with my cat, Chloe, but I wouldn’t have traded my 8 years with her for anyhing.

    Anyoo–pets I would not have. No mice. And no snakes because you have to feed them mice.

    I will stick with cats and small toy breed dogs. 🙂

  21. Loved that post! We have a very adorable, completely mischevous (sp?), textbook Beagle named Lucy. She’s five and if I have to comb my kitchen floor one more time, I think I will scream. This adorable girl will roll on her back in the dirty like a baby elephant on safari then come through the doggie door and shake herself onto my kitchen floor. I have completely given up on having a CLEAN kitchen floor (it’s gross, but what can I do?) and settle for one that’s 80% hair-free. I never knew a short-haired dog could shed so much. This is my second Beagle but apparently my childhood memory has blurred the incessant shedding. I love her when she howls (baying is the only barking Beagles do) and when she tilts her head to the side and stares at me begging for the corner of my toast each morning. Of course, I oblige her because I love her to pieces. All the snatched dinners (yes she’ll take it right out of my son’s hand if he’s not careful), the hairy floors, the dirt clouds she carries (think Peanuts character Pigpen) and the quintessential Beagle face she possesses keep her close to my heart and I wouldn’t trade her for the world.

    We haven’t gone the rodent route; I’m reluctant. We’ve had fish and hermit crabs; eeh, nothing to write home about. We almost got a snake from a friend (they hibernate 6 months of the year) but my husband said NO WAY! I thought Racy was kinda cute and I really think I could have handled it; for the sake of my adorable 7 year old son, of course. But it was not to be.

    This lovable Lucy (named for Charlie Brown’s nemesis) is here to stay. She’s only five so we have another good 10 years with her. The kids love her to pieces and I think my husband even loves her; but don’t ask him to swear on it.

    I am just such a dog person, that’s probably as far as we will reach into the pet kingdom.

    Hope you’re squeezing in 10-15 minutes here and there (sleeping, not nursing!)

    Have a great weekend!
    Shannon in Tustin

  22. It’s funny, I just finished posting about my expensive “free” dog. 🙂

    Anyway, my line is snakes too. *shudder* Can’t imagine wanting one of those around. Deal breaker for sure!

    Great post. 🙂

  23. Hi Jane,
    You were a good mom to work so hard to save the gecko. When my kids were growing up we had a cat and a dog. My kids each won a goldfish at a church carnival once and I did not want to deal with them and they didn’t live long even though we bought all kinds of bowls and food for them. After that, I decreed that there would be no more pets which I stuck to until just last summer when we adopted two kittens.

  24. Great story Jane.

    When our last baby is potty trained we’ll get a puppy. We’ve got three girls and fish reign supreme in our house. Little Tommy was the longest lasting fish and lived long enough to make it to our personalized stick figure family stationary…then he went on vacation via the toilet bowl express. He joined Belle, Tink, Beast, Peter, Jasmine and others. Can you tell we live in Orlando? My girls are a little too generous at feeding time. So I’ll wait until their older. I don’t want another death on conscience.

    Congrats on your beautiful family. Baby looks like Papa.

  25. Hey Jane: I got such a kick out of Melissa M.’s comment about the horse and donkey. What a great sense of humor.
    No No No – snakes, rodents, lizards or South Florida bugs which are plentiful here. Thank goodness I had girls so there was never an issue about awful pets. I was very happy with the dog and cats and still am.

  26. Thank goodness I had girls.
    I live on a farm near a pond.
    I have a dog and an outside cat and that is it.
    The thought of a snake for a pet just makes me ill.

  27. What a great blog! I sat here smiling large through the whole thing. This is a topic near and dear to my heart because when I was a child, my father (much to my mother’s dismay) allowed my two sisters and I to have all sorts of pets including seahorses, fish, turtles, newts, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks and even a raccoon. I wanted an iquana and my mother put her put down and said very adamantly, “Absolutely no lizards and no snakes in my house!!!” So I never got my iguana. When I graduated into Grade 8, we got a dog: a Spoodle named Benji.

    Now, my sister Karen has almost 7 year old twins and they have 2 beta fish (my gift from Christmas 2007), two gerbils, two turtles, two tree frogs, a green anole, a hermit crab and a dog! And, the twins, Erika & Ethan, still want more pets! Karen and her husband Rob are in the process of getting ready to build a new house on their lakefront property, so they said no more pets for now, thank you.

    However, rockin’ Aunt Christine is going to step up to the plate and get them two RATS for their birthday on June 26th, and we’ll keep them at my place for E&E to play with when they visit! When the new house is built, if Mommy & Daddy say the rats can live with them, so be it. If not, I’ll care for them and I just know that my Goldendoodle Scully will be fascinated with his new rat buddies, who I am going to call Bono and Bob, the Boomtown Rats, of course! 🙂

    That Gecko is really lucky to have you in its life, Jane! And your boys have an awesome Mom too!

  28. There are many intriguing time limits in this particular article even so I never know if I see these. You can find some validity but I will take to maintain my viewpoint till I investigate it further. Great post , Thanks

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